A mainstreaming moment for the cannabis industry: Launching CERIA™ Brewing Company’s first THC-infused beer

Having worked in the beer industry for much of my career, and now in the cannabis business, I find it deeply satisfying to see the two lifestyle industries come together. With the launch of renowned brewmaster Keith Villa’s CERIA™ Brewing Company, Keith is realizing his vision to utilize beer – the world’s most socially acceptable and democratic beverage – to move beyond the stigma of cannabis and unlock its magic for the mainstream.

Keith is a great example of the growing trend of seasoned leaders lured away from their jobs in consumer-packaged goods by the extraordinary promise of the cannabis industry. It’s similar to the Silicon Valley a decade or so ago, when leaders from P&G, Clorox and others transitioned to roles in technology companies, helping them to understand that everyday people don’t speak engineering.

Today, it is crucial to realize that the counter-culture roots of marijuana can be a potential roadblock to consumers who might otherwise be interested in learning more about, and even participating in, the exciting new world of cannabis. While staying relevant to your installed base is important, it can’t be at the expense of growing your audience. This shift in understanding, and focus, is critical for the industry to truly grow up and fulfill its promise. Today, more than ever, cannabis brands must be focused on meeting the needs of their potential consumers to drive sustainable growth.

My agency started working with Keith when he was the mastermind behind the beloved and ever-popular Blue Moon. When he retired from one of the big breweries in late 2017 and started CERIA™ with his wife Jodi, we were thrilled to be tapped to develop the brand strategy and identity for CERIA, Inc. As part of our work together, we helped develop the entire brand system, including strategy, identity, packaging, website and product naming for CERIA Brewing, their cannabis beer portfolio.

Hi! Cannabis Conversations: Community Building Event

Hi! Cannabis Conversations: Community Building Event

Following the New West Summit conference on October 12th, Trinity Brand Group and 4twenty Group co-hosted a Hi! Cannabis Conversations networking event at Tamarindo restaurant in Oakland. The event provided the perfect forum for industry leaders to get together and share ideas, network with new people and discuss the future of cannabis. With an estimated 100 attendees, the evening was abuzz with conversation and connections and was a great example of how much interest and excitement there is in this old, but new, industry for California. It also proved that in this fast-paced technology era, nothing beats the power of meeting face-to-face. By all measures, the event was a huge success and we eagerly anticipate creating similar experiences in 2019. Please be in touch if you’d like to be included in our next event.

 

 

SF Business Times Food & Beverage Innovators Breakfast

SF Business Times Food & Beverage Innovators Breakfast

A perspective on the better-for-you food movement: balancing plant-based eating with bacon and marshmallows

At the SF Business Times Food & Beverage Innovators breakfast on 27 April, I listened intently to the esteemed panel of food leaders from Harmless Harvest, Good Eggs, Lotus Foods, Smashmallow, and Ripple Foods talk about the trend towards clean eating and plant-based foods. Hearing about the future of food they are creating was inspiring, and it also gave me pause about eating the last slice of bacon on my plate.

Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, these businesses have a common denominator. From start-ups to mature companies, they face similar challenges from hiring the right people and determining the appropriate pace of growth, to working with major retailers to effectively distribute their better-for-you products. What they have in common—at all stages of growth—is the need to define and stay true to the essence of their brand.

As a brand strategist, I was delighted to hear that packaging was a consistent topic for everyone. Not only about the designs themselves but in the strategic decisions these leaders face every day about their brand. This includes using common sense, like the example shared by Good Eggs CEO, Bentley Hall, who reported saving $10,000 in cardboard box expenses in their first week of a new ‘return to the warehouse’ package reuse program. Not only does that solve a problem for the consumer, but it helps the environment—the ultimate brand win-win.

The question asked by the gentleman from SF’s legendary Max’s Diner: “What do you see as the future of corn beef and pastrami?” brought a good laugh from attendees. He also helped bring into focus how this better-for-you trend is playing out across the nation. Even legacy food brands need to adapt and evolve but they need to do it in a way that’s authentic to who they are and on brand.

I guess my wife is right, “everything in moderation.” So, if you’re wondering – yes, I ate the last piece of bacon.

Is Your Brand Sick?

Is Your Brand Sick?

Recognizing the symptoms and signs of a brand in distress.

With the colors changing and temperatures getting chillier, fall is the season when we start to hear more people saying, “I think I may be coming down with something”, which makes this a good time to start talking about health—not only our personal health, but the health of our brands.

As marketers, how do you ensure you don’t ignore the symptoms of a brand that may be under the weather?

Trinity’s longtime client, Quantum Health, is all about wellness – about empowering people to do right for their bodies.  Yet, not unlike many businesses, Quantum’s relentless focus on product efficacy, innovation and customer satisfaction took priority, leaving less time to think about the long-term health of their brand. Over time, their portfolio architecture became overcomplicated and the medicinal-looking packaging was dated. As a result, they weren’t poised to connect with the growing base of modern consumers seeking effective natural supplements to support their healthy lifestyle.

As we evaluate the state of all our clients’ brand health, we consider internal, consumer and competitive perspectives, asking these tough but important questions:

  • Internal – Do you know what your unique brand promise is? How do you deliver on that promise every day?
  • Consumer – When was the last time you asked consumers why and how they shop your category? What made them decide to purchase your brand? Is your packaging delivering on those purchase drivers?
  • Competitive – Is your brand promise coming through on shelf and in all the places where consumers engage with the category?

Throughout the journey, it’s important to be honest and not ignore the signs telling you your brand may be sick. Instead, it’s time to get busy and get healthy:

  • Step back and look at the big picture.
  • Do the foundational work to reimagine and re-articulate your brand, keeping the future – not just the present – in mind.
  • Stay true to the essence of your brand as you develop the unique communications (visual and verbal) that it should drive.

To help Quantum in its quest for a long, healthy life, we:

  1. Articulated a brand promise, Doing Right, with a message of trust and empowerment that ties what is unique and true to whom the brand is with what their consumers are looking for.
  2. Made sure the brand’s new look met consumers’ growing demand for more natural solutions – imbuing the brand with an elegant, modern, yet powerfully natural new appearance.
  3. Helped simplify and clarify their brand and packaging architecture, so that consumers understand the entire portfolio, empowering them to navigate a chaotic category with ease and confidence.

The point is that your brand doesn’t have to be terminally ill to take action. With some smart steps, any brand can be on a road to better health. With Quantum’s new packaging rolling out in stores as we write, retailers and consumers are reporting back with just the kind of positive news the doctor ordered.

We invite you to look for Quantum in your local Whole Foods, Pharmaca or other natural food or supplement stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. Naturally, we’d love to hear what you think.

 

 

 

Less is More: Shifting the Conversation in the Better-for-You Space

Less is More: Shifting the Conversation in the Better-for-You Space

For years we’ve been hearing that we need to be healthier. This is not new news.

How we market “healthy”, however, has taken a decidedly different turn. This is primarily in response to how consumers’ definition of healthy and their approach to living a healthy lifestyle has evolved. Feeling good about ourselves used to be about depletion and a focus on what was missing, namely excess calories, fat, carbs – you get the point. Today, food and beverage brands are making a positive shift towards what consumers can gain from making healthier choices so that being healthy isn’t just about being thin. Now it’s not about what you’re missing, it’s about what you’re getting that makes you a “better” you.

Look at Special K which evolved from a cereal brand prominently featuring a tape measure graphic and “Special K Challenge” weight-loss message, to a lifestyle brand spanning multiple categories. The brand has repositioned itself in the healthful space with the introduction of a new sub-brand line called Nourish. Certain line extensions highlight the number of “nourishing calories” followed by product benefits such as grams of protein and vitamins to educate consumers about what they’re gaining.

This is just one example of how companies are changing the conversation around healthy from “less than” to “more of” and “free from.” This shift in tone appears to be working.

Over the last few years we’ve watched major food brands publicly and privately start the clean label or “free from” movement. Companies like Kraft and General Mills have decided to focus product innovation on reformulations to remove extra sodium, sugar and artificial coloring and flavor.

Even the likes of Panera and other casual and fast-food restaurants have a list of “no way” ingredients they are phasing out of their offerings. For many brands, their focus on “clean” is a public commitment aimed at rebuilding trust and credibility with consumers who have migrated to healthier choices.

But, while people want better options for themselves and their families, they aren’t always willing to sacrifice taste or flavor which is why household favorites like Kraft Mac and Cheese reformulated under the radar.

This deliberate move went undetected and without complaint from consumers until the company sold 50,000 blue boxes of the new recipe. Kraft then went public with the news that the product had been changed and no one had noticed!

Healthful Meets Indulgence: A Study in Checks and Balances

Like food manufacturers, the alcohol industry is feeling the pressure to not only shift to better-for-you ingredients but also to be more transparent with what’s inside. While the industry is adapting to new labeling rules, the looming question remains: how much do consumers really want to know about their favorite products? Will knowing too much ruin our buzz?

Earlier this year, Constellation Brands launched a new low calorie, low carb beer from Corona called Corona Premier, in select markets nationally. Trinity Brand Group was chosen to help Constellation develop this better-for-you product from naming the product to designing the brand identity and packaging. In developing our strategy, we looked to trends in food and non-alcoholic beverages that didn’t sound or look like the diet products of the past. Black for diet in Coke Zero? Bright colors and bountiful imagery to suggest low calorie? Yes, please!

While calorie and carb counts influence purchase decisions at the store, men in a high-badge category like beer don’t want to be reminded of how many calories they are consuming when in social settings or inadvertently suggest to their buddies that they are watching their waistline simply by the beer they have in hand. For example, “skinny” brands are popular but the word isn’t. We feel affinity toward brands that reward us for our good choices, make us feel empowered, smart and proud.

Given this insight, we developed a different strategy for Premier. The visual identity and name feel like a reward, not a sacrifice. While the product has less calories and carbs than Corona Light, the intention was to help consumers feel great about their choice, proud to bring it to a party, but free from the guilt of indulging in something with loads of calories that would “undo” the hard work they put in at the gym.

For the new adult beverage, Bravazzi Hard Italian Soda, our client, Vivify Beverages, saw an opportunity to develop a product for people who love flavored hard sodas but don’t want the artificial stuff that comes along with them. Gluten free and clocking in at 1/2 of the calories as their competitors, Bravazzi’s blend of natural ingredients provides a fresh, flavorful choice and tastes amazing without anything artificial. The clean, colorful packaging helps sell the product as a “better for you” choice without sacrificing flavor or taste and appeals to men and women alike. And so far, consumers are drinking it up.

While we may not be ready to know exactly what is in everything we eat and drink, the moment for full transparency is coming, ready or not. And when two-thirds of global consumers (68%) say they are willing to pay more for foods without undesirable ingredients*, it may pay in more ways than one for brands to keep focusing on the positive – where less really can mean more.

Tell us: what is your brand doing to give consumers more from less?

*Source: Nielsen’s new Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey, August 2016

A Universal Truth About Packaging at Retail: Know Thy Consumer Experience

A Universal Truth About Packaging at Retail: Know Thy Consumer Experience

Working across different industries, organizations, and cultures here in the US and abroad, we’ve discovered a universal truth in package design:

Very rarely do brand managers go into the store and consider their consumer’s shopping experience.

Yet that’s the very thing that should be driving their strategy in the first place; no matter the country, region or channel.

My colleague, Alan Smith, and I set about to change that reality at a day-long brand and package design workshop we led for Bord Bia, the Irish government agency working with the country’s food and beverage companies to develop and grow their brands. There, we led representatives of many of Ireland’s food and beverage businesses, large and small, through both the basics and the intricacies of strategic package design. We also had a chance to ask and answer all sorts of illuminating questions.

Every brand manager knows that great package design is driven by a strong brand strategy. But with all the hard work that goes into understanding target consumers and developing differentiated positioning, vital decisions around packaging design are often made based on 2-D presentations considered in a conference room, save for the occasional comp, rendering or a few competitor samples.

What we always remind our clients, and ourselves for that matter, is to “put yourself in your shopper’s shoes. What’s their experience? What do they see?”

We know that a trip to any grocery store can be a cacophonous experience filled with cluttered shelves and any number of distractions. As effective marketers, our packaging has 3 important jobs to do to connect with today’s retail shopper:

 

ATTRACT         INFORM         DELIGHT

 

ATTRACT

This is about getting noticed on a crowded shelf by an unengaged shopper 5-10 feet away.

So – go shopping. When you walk down an aisle, what packaging stands out? What makes you look for just that extra second? Is your brand attracting consumers’ attention amidst the chaotic grocery shelf?

Some pointers for how to get noticed:

STAND OUT, BUT DON’T STICK OUT
People need to understand what category you’re in to put you in their consideration set, so first identify those requisite category norms, then flex from there.

 

DESIGN FOR HOW YOUR PRODUCT WILL BE MERCHANDISED
Lighting, shelf lips and display orientation should all drive design strategy. If you know in advance that shoppers aren’t going to see that delicious product photography over the shelf lip, you might think differently about where to place it on your package. If your brand mark is going to be obscured by the shadow of the shelf above, you should probably consider moving it lower on your package. And if your dog food package is only ever really going to be merchandised with the small end panel facing out, you should make sure you’re treating that like it’s your primary display panel too.

 

LOOK AS BIG AS YOU CAN
Designing packaging systems that create a brand block across multiple facings helps you maximize ownership over your section of the shelf, however limited it may be. It also gives your consumer a place to rest their eyes and something to navigate to.

 

INFORM

Okay, you’ve drawn them in. Now, help your consumer shop!

Make sure you are clearly signaling where your package fits both within the category and in your own product line.

Things to do to inform:

  • Design for the information your consumer needs! Prioritize and then clearly communicate your brand, product and benefits
  • Create a clear communication hierarchy that intuitively drives the way you want them to take in the information on your package

Remember, if you try to say everything, your consumer will take away nothing.

Most importantly, don’t design yourself into a corner – think about future flavors and products. Make sure a design, illustration or photography style is extendable.

 

DELIGHT

Here’s your chance to connect and create a relationship with your brand. It requires making your product emotionally relevant to your consumer by creating a positive experience, large or small, through a memorable voice or story.

Some tips for creating delight:

  • Let your brand’s authentic personality shine through
  • Find a way to tell your story in an engaging manner, and stick to it across all aspects of your package
  • Reward engagement with special details and discoveries

Remember, sometimes disruption can be delightful!

 

With these tips in mind, we encourage all brand managers and designers across the globe to get out of the conference room and go shopping whether that’s in a supermercado, supermarche or a supermarket. Tell us what you learn. You may be surprised at what you discover about brands – and what you don’t – including your own.

Culturally Curious

Culturally Curious

Our work has deep meaning for us. We take pride in the strategic design work we create, but it’s the partnerships we enjoy with our clients that are at the core of who we are and exemplify our expanded reach as a firm. No matter where our clients are headquartered or where their consumers are, we begin by applying both rigor and empathy to build an understanding of their unique situation. This approach reminds us that as an organization we are far more than where we come from, more than points on a map. By being curious and thoughtful about how we relate to other cultures and communities, we all win.

This approach to working with brands is the foundation that drives us to be culturally curious, to be courageous in our approach and open to possibilities. We immerse ourselves in each of our client’s world to translate their culture into our brand and creative strategy.  We learn and listen first –  so that the approach we take resonates with our client and their values, and aligns with their consumers wherever they live.

This enthusiastic spirit has defined our relationship with Carling Beer as we helped articulate how their UK Premier League sponsorship could manifest in far-off places like Ukraine, Australia and Ethiopia. Across such a diverse map, we found that – while fans pulse with a universal shared passion for football – each market had its own cultural nuances and unique regulations that informed the types of successful branded executions we developed.

From the earliest days of Trinity Brand Group, we’ve immersed ourselves in the nuances of clients and cultures from around the globe. One of our first programs was to evolve the identity for Pathé, a world-renowned French entertainment company known for producing and distributing exceptional films. Upon its acquisition of the iconic Gaumont theatre chain, they needed to refresh the Pathé brand and create a culturally relevant brand that could reach across the globe.

Through our immersion in Pathé’s world and our understanding of the different markets where the brand would need to live, we helped our client partner retain their brand’s uniquely French sensibility along with their quirky sense of humor and passion for arts and culture as we extended its relevance around the world. To this day, we take pride in and inspiration from the part we played in furthering Pathé’s mission to provide joy to consumers worldwide through movies and entertainment.

And, in recent months, one of our most gratifying moments has been to see our branding work come to life with the re-opening of the Sullivan’s Brewery in Kilkenny, Ireland. With our office in Dublin and expertise in the craft beer industry, we were uniquely suited to partner with the centuries-old brewing family to position and design the Sullivan’s brand for today. Our work with them took us deep into the Kilkenny community for inspiration and even for local resources as we designed and helped build out the brand’s taproom in the center of the city.  When the doors of the brewery’s taproom opened, we were exhilarated and humbled.  The people of Kilkenny have inspired us with their open hearts, passion and goodwill, something that will stay with us forever.

At the end of the day, this is the stuff that fuels our passion for the work we do. It’s our aim to make a difference in the lives of the people we touch from around the world to right here at home. The best way to do that is to slow down and listen.

Talking Brand with Cannabis Entrepreneurs

Talking Brand with Cannabis Entrepreneurs

In our role as brand consultants, it’s refreshing to get out and talk with companies about their businesses and learn what’s challenging them now and what’s on their horizon. Several of us from Trinity had the opportunity to do just that last week, when we gave a presentation on “Your Brand as a Business Tool” to a group of entrepreneurs and emerging companies at Gateway, in Oakland.

Gateway is an incubator for start-ups in the cannabis industry, providing business mentorship and investment in emerging companies in this new era of legalization. With Trinity’s experience working on brand strategy and package design across a broad spectrum of consumer goods including our work in cannabis with ebbu, a Colorado-based cannabis brand, we brought relevant experience to the table in what turned out to be a fascinating discussion.

Together with my colleagues, Laurie Kreisberg (strategy guru) and Paul Kagiwada (kick butt creative director), we had a strong turnout and a robust conversation during and after the presentation. Here are some highlights.

I, for one, continue to be energized by the thirst for knowledge, optimism and rolling-up-the-sleeves work ethic that’s driving these entrepreneurs. Many have business experience from other industries, some have grown up in cannabis and for others they’re new to all of this. Across the board, they have a deep appreciation for the need for brand and a pretty intuitive sense for what branding is all about.

During the session, our conversations included topics like why branding is important to your business every day and not just when you’re developing a logo; the advancements at retail and the gaps still present in the space; and even points about the details, nomenclature and pricing of what we as a consultancy do.

In cannabis, there’s a brewing conversation and we brought it up during our time together. At Trinity we strongly feel it’s time for cannabis to come out of the shadows and for cannabis brands to go mainstream. But in doing so, the rest of the equation must be kept in mind… Do this while staying true to the positive promise of cannabis, don’t sell out, and maintain your brand’s connection and credibility with current consumers. To a person, this resonated with the assembly’s participants. I’ve been to my share of conferences of late, both cannabis and more traditional consumer packaged goods. I’m impressed with the movement I’m seeing in cannabis towards the mainstream, but I’m also watchful that as that shift happens brands stay true to themselves and the vision of their founders.

In a room full of entrepreneurs, the passion for and belief in ideas is palpable. It’s the driving force. One point we made was that, in the early days, it’s very personal. Much of their brand’s truth will come from who they are and why they are in the business they’re in. The trick will be to leverage that personal foundation to articulate a unique, compelling brand platform that can then drive business.

Special shout-out to Michael Finkbeiner at Gateway for the logistical support getting ready for the session and of course to Ben Larson and Carter Laren, the founders of Gateway, for the opportunity to be a Mentor for the cohort and be involved in other ways.

 

Cannabis and Craft Beer: Parallels from Roads Less Traveled

Cannabis and Craft Beer: Parallels from Roads Less Traveled

As brand strategists and packaging designers, it is fascinating to witness the cannabis industry evolving so quickly. And it’s invigorating to be playing a part in the evolution of its communications through our initial work with Colorado-based ebbu and others. For cannabis to fully realize its potential at the rapid pace many predict, the industry will need to appeal to a broader mainstream consumer base without risking losing its current franchise.

The cannabis consumers’ need states are as diverse as the strains of the plant itself. Knowing one’s audience will be a critical first step for the industry to connect with and become part of the mainstream.

This is important because, no matter what its past associations, cannabis is just another consumer product. Shed the “pot head” stigmas and the pre-legalization baggage and you’ve got a plant that can be used to produce products for everything from the treatment of life-threatening disease to relief from everyday ailments to a way to simply unwind with friends.

There’s a lot to learn by looking at parallels between the cannabis and craft beer industries. Like craft beer in its early days, cannabis brands are hamstrung by confusion brought about by preconceptions and inexperience.

With craft beer, consumers were initially overwhelmed by so many new tastes and unexpected ingredients. Similarly, in cannabis, the sheer number and names of strains require deep knowledge and, ideally, a decoder ring. Craft beer was infamous for the “regular beer drinker’s” apprehension about ordering a beer that was too – insert challenging palate description here – to drink more than a few sips. Today’s cannabis in all of its forms is unpredictable for new-to-cannabis consumers. Even lapsed users, who were old pros in college, find themselves more than a little lost when visiting a Denver dispensary while on a weed tour from out of state.

And, similar to craft’s early adopters who helped their friends taste the promise of real beer, there are cannabis aficionados taking up the cause to help newcomers make sense of it all. Also within craft, industry players found success educating influential bartenders to serve as guides for those stepping out of big beer. Empowering budtenders with the information and the right brand story to tell should prove equally successful for those seeking to lead in cannabis.

With all this focus on the mainstream consumer let’s not gloss over the current base of today’s market, those who have been around for a while, many of whom embrace some of the naughtiness of marijuana and its counter-culture bent. In many ways they are the driving force of the industry and will be the point of the arrow evolving the market and opening it up to that mainstream consumer. As this unfolds, the stigma of pot and its counter-culture will likely slowly erode. But only if the industry leads by kicking its own habit of living in that past. And, exciting news for branding professionals watching the industry closely, many are starting to make this move.

You already see it at smart dispensaries that borrow ideas from retail leaders and wash their stores with better lighting, encourage exploration with well-designed displays and employ techniques to improve the shopping experience like organizing their selections by desired mood or experience. This all has to happen… soccer moms and the like are already frequenting Denver dispensaries. On the product side, huge strides will be made if the proponents of product reformulations can keep their promise of delivering truly predictable experiences.

With mainstreaming comes classic needs of a consumer-led industry.  As cannabis becomes more readily available within the legalized system, consumers will need information. Smart brands – and the stories they tell – will be the best sources to deliver those insights and help consumers understand and differentiate between choices along the journey. Cohesive and clear messaging direct to the consumer on packaging is a good starting point.

As the legalization of cannabis is getting real, it’s time for the industry to get real too. Like craft brewers a decade ago, it’s time to start thinking from the consumer’s POV. It’s time to realize that the new-to-pot consumer doesn’t know how to use a vape pen. Yet.

3 Key Insights From AMA Conference About Successful Client-Agency Relationships

3 Key Insights From AMA Conference About Successful Client-Agency Relationships

2016 BrandSmart Conference Panel Discussion
2016 BrandSmart Conference Panel Discussion

Is it trust, adaptability, responsiveness, efficiency, talent or pure chemistry that defines the best client-agency relationships in 2016 and beyond? We’ve watched clients bring design in-house and then out and in again, and have seen agencies expand and contract capabilities as clients ask for more or less (Yes! We now are ‘social/digital/multi-cultural/influencer’ experts). After years of change, it seems like the dust is settling and we’re seeing some key themes emerge that define what it means to cultivate a successful and productive client-agency relationship.

At this year’s AMA BrandSmart Conference in Chicago, Trinity was invited to moderate a panel discussion between B2B and B2Cclient-agency teams who seem to have the formula for success figured out. As the selected moderator, I facilitated discussions that included age-old truths and sound nuggets of wisdom from partnerships that have stood the test of time to produce outstanding business-driving work. Here are three themes we think are worth sharing:

Reexamine Collaboration
Most agencies tout their ability to be transparent and collaborative with their clients. I happen to think Trinity does it better than most. But still, agencies (and some clients) like to have the “big reveal” moment. That’s a mindset of the past. The best work is done when we break down the us/them walls and give our partners the credit they are due. It’s a two-way street. Our panel reiterated the idea that they found success by inviting creative partners into business meetings (not just the account team) and client marketers into creative sessions. Opening the doors, being vulnerable and unveiling plans while they are soft and malleable can yield even better work. It’s not a turf war—heck, our clients aren’t really trying to design their next package—but more an opportunity to make the input and output better.

Be Nimble and Open to Evolution
Our panel readily admitted that no one agency can really do it all, but both agencies interviewed agreed that they have had to expand and redefine their services over time to meet client needs. There’s no way that Energy BBDO could have an 80-year relationship with Wrigley if they still only did print advertising and 15-second TV spots. As an agency, it’s up to us to really listen to our clients, beyond the words they use and keep one step ahead, adapting and innovating to meet their needs. For our clients, being honest about how we can adjust our teams and services to meet changing needs is a welcome conversation. Rather than switching agencies every time the wind blows, the client partners on these panels celebrated their agency relationships that adapted and evolved over time along with their business needs.

Build Trust to Build Business
Being honest—really, really soul-baring honesty with clients can be hard. When agencies are often battling it out for business, sometimes it’s easier to be agreeable and keep the water smooth. But yuck! This is not the way to build a solid and successful client-agency partnership. Probing into this dilemma with our panels, we heard, like a marriage, a strong partnership can only survive and thrive with open dialogue built on trust. With trust comes honesty. With honesty, comes the ability to deliver strong points of view that can be contrary to a client’s brief, business plan or vision. This can be a scary position for agencies to take but one that is built on a belief that open and respectful dialogue can elicit better work when it is not watered down by acquiescence and fear.

As my firm enters into its second decade, I look forward to building more of these honest, nimble, collaborative, evolving and lasting relationships with clients. Let’s grow old together and make amazing work driven by strong strategy along the way.